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Appeared on: Thursday, September 19, 2002
CEA's Shapiro challenges copyright community's attack on consumers and technology

Gary Shapiro, CEO and president of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), urged the content community to work with, not against, the technology industry, specifically in the critical area of copyright. Shapiro made his comments during his keynote speech at today's Optical Storage Symposium produced by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) in San Francisco.

"We are at a critical juncture in history when the inevitable growth of technology is conflicting with the rising power and strength of copyright owners," stated Shapiro. "How we resolve this tension between copyright and technology will define our future ability to communicate, create and share information, education and entertainment."

"The growth of reproduction, storage and transmission technology has terrified copyright owners. The content community has gone on a scorched earth campaign, attacking and burning several new recording and peer-to-peer technologies," Shapiro continued. "Copyright owners have used the Congress, media and courts to challenge the legality of technology and the morality and legality of recording. Despite cooperative efforts, the copyright community has declared war on technology."

"Hardware and software companies have a mutual interest in working together," Shapiro said. "By protecting content at the source, content providers can be assured their intellectual property rights are respected, while consumers can enjoy unimpeded personal use."

Shapiro outlined how the content industry has reshaped the copyright debate by changing the language of the issue, tying it to the success of broadband and calling downloading illegal and immoral. The content community has labeled downloading as "copying" and more recently as "piracy", "shoplifting" and "stealing". Shapiro argued that they've confused and convinced legislators that there is a connection between broadband deployment and copyright, yet he noted, broadband has little to do with songs and movies and more to do with high-speed Internet access, always-on convenience, exchanging home videos and other potential uses for education, medicine, business, shopping and gaming.

Shapiro refuted the content community's claims that downloading is illegal or immoral. One, he said, fair use rights are guaranteed to consumers by statute, and applied judicially on a case-by-case basis. Two, historically, new technology such as the VCR and DVD have shown that technology can be beneficial to copyright owners. Three, the 1997 NET Act's requirement of a total retail value of $1,000 per infringement protects ordinary consumers from threatened lawsuits from copyright owners.

"To make downloading immoral, you have to accept that copyrighted products are governed by the same moral and legal principles as real property," said Shapiro. "But the fact is that real and intellectual property are different and are governed by different principles. Downloading a copyrighted product does not diminish the product, as would be the case of taking and using tangible property such as a dress."

"Real property can be owned forever. A copyright can be owned only for a limited period of time," continued Shapiro. "Copyright law must bow to the First Amendment that expressly allows people to use a copyrighted product without the permission of the copyright owner. This concern contributes to the statutory and judicial concept of 'fair use'."

Shapiro listed six guidelines for policymakers to follow when crafting copyright legislation:

1. Do no harm.
2. Advances in technology should not be restricted.
3. Claims of harm from new technologies should be greeted with great skepticism, as history has shown.
4. Copyright owners have a high burden of proof before any technology should be restricted.
5. Copyright owners should continue developing ways to protect their content at the source.
6. Any restrictions on technology should be narrowly crafted.

"The collision course between copyright owners' desire to preserve existing business models and the inevitable development of newer, better, faster and cheaper technologies need not be fatal," concluded Shapiro. "If the play button becomes the pay button, our very ability to raise the world's standard of living and education will be jeopardized."

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